Farmers flocked to Kingston Maurward College from all over the county to hear NFU President Minette Batters present her vision for the future of the agricultural sector, writes James Moules.

The NFU President came to Dorset for the first of the union's annual open meetings for 2019. She spoke about the future of farming against the backdrop of the country's political crisis involving Brexit and the upcoming general election.

Mrs Batters laid out three “seismic planks” for agricultural policy going forward: trade, labour and the contents of the Agriculture Bill.

Emphasising the need to maintain the highest of food production standards, she said: "We must make sure that, whatever the colour of a future Government, our production standards – which are some of the highest in the world – will not be sacrificed for trade deals. We must not export our conscience for the sake of cheap, imported food that’s produced to standards that would be illegal here."

Other topics about which she talked included the NFU's environmental policy. Mrs Batters stated that it is her goal for British agriculture to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. She said this is an important target for the farming industry to reach, as consumers of the next generation are seeking food that is sustainably produced.

Read more: 91 per cent of farmers feel they are unfairly portrayed as enemies of the environment

She said: "As farmers we are in a unique position – we are both a source of emissions and a sink, so we are part of the solution to climate change not part of the problem. We have to show what farming can offer, rather than just talking about what we want, and we have a great deal to offer the country."

Mrs Batters further talked about labour, saying that it is the paramount that any future government ensured that the agricultural sector received it needs.

She said: "I genuinely feel there’s a great future out there, but we have to get it right."

Questions asked at the meeting included the issues facing the farming sector such as British food manufacturers importing liquid egg, the Basic Payment Scheme and vegan activism.

Regarding the latter, Mrs Batters said that the NFU would be meeting the country's leading universities regarding the decision of some to serve only plant based meals and explain why she thinks this move is wrong.

Originally published in Dorset Echo